Why are you learning Japanese? Is it (with Chinese) the most difficult language in the world?

I’m learning Japanese to become a manga artist, I’ve already made several short comics in Japanese. As far as difficulty that depends on what you consider hard. I don’t think time consuming counts as hard, so I would consider Japanese to be easy.

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I like historical linguistics and kanji, so that’s why I study. I don’t think it’s useful to say that languages are “difficult” to learn in anyway, since difficulty all depends on the learner, their motivation, and prior experience. The thing about languages is that they are all complex in different ways; when you make one thing simpler, you have to make another thing more complex. Do that again and again over thousands of years and you get languages whose complexities are very different from one another, like, say, French and Japanese.

Actually, re-reading your post, it sounds like you’re talking about the writing system and the language as one thing. So, maybe it isn’t super practical… But it seems to work. I find that, once you learn the kanji, it actually makes reading easier, because you can already see where all the word boundaries are in a sentence. It also helps with homophones. English has a lot of homophones too, and they’re differentiated by spelling–so what’s the difference?

Anyway, for any language that is spoken by many, many people, a standardized phonetic representation will be much more difficult than a standardized semantic (meaning-based) representation, because the words sound so different in all the different dialects (or in the case of Sinitic family, all the different languages).

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Hello ~ I originally became interested in learning Japanese in junior high school because I was really interested in anime and “Japanese style” games (like Ookami). Once I got into college and started classes, it broadened into an interest in culture, history, and daily life.

For me, because I was so interested in learning the language, I didn’t find it to be particularly difficult aside from kanji. I’ve always done well in school, and with my personal interest to learn I went into classes assuming I would take to it right away - and I did. I took two years of Spanish in high school and never retained much, but Japanese was what I wanted to learn - and that made a huge difference.

As far as language difficulty goes, it really depends on your mother language and other languages you have learned prior to starting your study. Per the US government website on the topic, it’s true that Japanese and Chinese as at the bottom of the list stating that they both require the most hours of study and have extra difficulty because of things like kanji, layers of politeness, etc. But with Japanese, the language with the most similarities is Korean (not saying they’re related - that’s a whole linguistic argument in and of itself). So for someone whose native language is Korean, or who has learned the language, it should theoretically take them less time to learn it. That’s also why Germanic and Romance languages take the least amount of time for native English speakers to learn - because of the similarities they share. This has also budded into and interest in Linguistics ~

Here’s the website for anyone interested:
http://www.effectivelanguagelearning.com/language-guide/language-difficulty

I was lucky enough to be able to study abroad in Japan during college and study the language immersively, and that boosted my language skills immensely and kept my interest up. I’m now using Wanikani to self study and improve my kanji reading skills and vocab so that I can interact more with locals and get around more easily when I visit Japan.

Boiling it down: I love Japan, and I love the Japanese language ~

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I’ve wanted to live in japan someday for like 4 or 5 years now. I love almost everything about japan, the countryside, the cities, the culture and people. I generally feel a lot more related to japanese people mentality wise than with the people from my native country. So a couple months ago I finally was like: “If I want to live in japan someday, I have to know the language”. And so I started learning kana and after I learned every kana and kana combination I went on to wanikani to learn kanji. And that’s how I ended up here, learning japanese with you guys. :slight_smile:

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Yep, you guys have said it all: it all boils down to love :heart:

There is something about the language and culture that makes me feel more civilised and connected to other human beings. It’s a lot about respect and attention to detail. Japan isn’t perfect of course, but it’s pretty close.

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Funny that essay by Twain about German genders, hehe! Thank you for that! Also, @Syphus, thanks for all your explanations about Chinese! I loved to get an idea about it!

And to everybody, wow, thanks for all your answers. In fact, it makes me very happy to know that so many people have this interest in Japanese language, for different reasons; and this interest do exist and is fulfilled even it being - in my opinion at least -, yes, a very difficult language - or if you prefer, time consuming language to learn; or a very different language comparing to other languages, mainly Western languages such as English, French, Spanish, etc. (I suppose we need to have English as reference point, as we are just now communicating in English, so all of us at least have a functional knowledge of English…) So, your interest have to be especially big to surpass possible difficulties, differences or time consuming efforts to master Japanese.

I did not say myself yet why I’ve been learning Japanese! Well, I’m a descendant of Japanese people through my father brand, since his parents are Japanese immigrants to Brazil; however they arrived here when they were just 10 year old kids. And I like to cultivate this tradition, to look for my origins, I think that it means kind of learning more about myself, my older “me” (at least a part of it in my family).

But I’m one of the only people in my (father) family who commited to learn some Japanese. The majority of them just look like Japanese here in Brazil, and I’m sure people will point at them and say “hey, Japanese man/girl/etc.!”, but they won’t be able to say or understand nothing in Japanese haha.

And, of course, I love to learn languages in general, and I get a special keen for Japanese, mainly Japanese kanjis. I think they look like ART itself (which is also a big part of my interests in life)! hehe. And also since I was a kid, I’ve loved to read comics, mainly Brazilian and American comics; and later, as teenager and young adult, I started with anime/manga as well. Nowadays, I’m finishing my Masters on Brazilian comics influenced by manga.

(oh, and I’ve started to teach Japanese for beginners, one student many years ago, and others and others since last year, which seems like a dream to me, I love it! it helps me a lot to improve my own knowledge as well and brings me super more motivation to study, since I need to be of course many steps ahead of my students, hehe!)

By the way, I also got curious to know where are you from (countries/cities), as I couldn’t check that information in your profiles (apart of @Powerpuncher, from Germany). It’s also interesting to know the origins/points of view of the people who are answering this thread, checking how much Japanese culture spread through the world! :slight_smile:

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wow, thanks for teaching me about that seemingly Tibetan mad system haha

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Wow, interesting to hear your reasons for going back to your japanese roots. I envy you! :star_struck:

Maybe you might be interested in some videos of a half american guy named Byron Fija, who stayed in Okinawa and researched the traditional language (Uchinaaguchi) that even most residents don’t know/understand. After touring the US he came back, because he felt that it’s where he belonged.

The language is so beautiful. I’m glad that at least someone tries to preserver it!

Language Lesson Playlist: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6EfwfexTB9g&list=PL583081AFE40B17EC
Other stuff on Youtube with Byron Fija: https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=bylon+fija&page=&utm_source=opensearch

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I am studying Japanese because of a lifelong interest in Japanese culture, starting with origami decades ago, then Japanese Buddhism in the 80’s, then the poet Ryokan, then Japanese paper. Now. NHK is the only network on in my house, and I hope to travel to Japan in the next couple of years.

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I started learning because I want to be able to read manga and light novels. I find real world Japanese history and culture interesting, but not much more interesting than, say, European history, and not nearly interesting enough to learn a whole new language just for them. No, for me it’s all about the children’s comic books. Shame on me. That said, if I do get to the point where I know 2000+ kanji and 5000+ vocab, I’ll probably see if I can make use of that in a more productive way. I’d love to visit Japan, but I don’t have any marketable skills that would make it easier to get a job in Japan than here in Sweden. I’m not finding it very difficult to learn to read (though a few vocab items seem not to like me very much), but I’m noticing that unlike with English learning to write does not come for free just because you know kanji well enough to recognize them when you see them. I’ll keep doing only Wanikani for a while, but I’ve started looking at ways to learn grammar, and I should probably try to learn at least some kanji well enough to write them on paper. I also was given an old Pimsleur Japanese 1 course some years ago, and that helped get the ball rolling.

I got to level 6 or 7 last year, but then life got busy and I sort of dropped it for a month or two, and then the wall of 600+ reviews scared me away. I reset it this year and decided to give it another go. I’m glad I did, because I’m really enjoying this. Both slowly seeing the numbers grow and the moments when I recognize a word I now know in a VN or anime. It’ll be so cool when I get to the point where I understand whole full length sentences.

Good you’ve just mentioned Okinawa. We need to pay attention on them because they are not “normal” Japanese people. This island, formely known as Kingdom of Ryûkyû, was an independent country culturally and comercially closer to China than Japan.

However, in 1609, Japan invaded this kingdom, interested in its commerce with China. Its king was captured and the land was forced to became a vassal of Japanese emperor.

Later, in 1879, Japan finally annexed in fact the Ryûkyû archipelago, abolishing the local monarchy. Not only that, but Japan systematically attempted to eliminate Ryukyuan culture, including the language, religion, and cultural practices.

In 1908, arrived to Brazil the first “Japanese” immigrants. There were around 800 people, but almost HALF of them came from Okinawa!

Nowadays, the province of Okinawa has 1,4 million inhabitants, around 1% of Japanese population. However, when we consider the whole of the world Japanese immigrants and descendants (nikkeys), of 3,5 million people, they are 350 mil from Okinawa, what means 10%; their ratio abroad is 10 TIMES more than in the origin. In Peru and Argentina, they are more than 90% of “Japanese” immigrants"!

Finally, during the Second World War, when Americans battled trying to defeat Japan, actually where did happen the war? In Okinawa. In the occasion, 150 hundred CIVILIAN Okinawans died, which meant ONE QUARTER of the local people. And people always remember about Hiroshima and Nagasaki (very fair) but never talk about Okinawa.

After the end of the war, in 1945, United States ocuppied Okinawa, with military possession, until 1972! And still today, there are 32 U.S. military bases located on Okinawa Island. In total, these bases occupy approximately 25% of the island’s area! Fact is that, despite being home to less than 1% of Japan’s population and area, they still have to put up with the majority of Japan’s U.S. military occupation.

What do you think about that?

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In the words of Hirohito, しょうがない

Thank you for this.
I’ve been living in Okinawa for the past two years (not military) and they way the prefecture gets treated by the rest of the country does not paint a pretty picture. Okinawa was basically a pawn sacrificed in WWII so that the Americans wouldn’t touch “the home islands”. Even today, they are planning to build a new American base up north in Henoko, causing major destruction to a still relatively pristine ecosystem and displacing small communities. Despite over 90 percent of Okinawans voting vehemently against the proposal (where else will you find that kind of unanimous agreement?) Tokyo literally does not give a shit. Police are violently silencing (sometimes elderly) protestors and forcibly removing them from the proposed site.

It’s disgusting.

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Semantically this really feels quite sensible. It seems more like Finnish just has a rather more defined semantic taxonomy, clearly represented by the phonological arrangement of its words. In the case of “kirja” and its derivatives, its very easy to come across a form one previously did not know (for example “kirjoittaja”) and still have a rough idea of the theme or idea of what’s going on with this unknown word.

I’m not going to bother going into producing examples of how this contrasts with English; I’m sure you all can imagine.

+1 for Finnish

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The difficulty of a language is not only relative to your native language(s), but to other factors. I have some hearing loss, so spoken Chinese (or other tonal languages such as Vietnamese) would be difficult for me to learn. Japanese has pitch accent, but it doesn’t seem to affect nearly as many meanings.

A lot of people have trouble with English because it’s a broken mish-mash of languages compared to some others. Personally, I think Russian might be difficult, due to the grammar complexity.

It’s all relative ¯_(ツ)_/¯

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I’m just another nerd who loves anime, manga, and jprgs…but I’d also love to be able to just expand my world a bit!

I mean, I’ve always hated being monolingual, but my manager at my last job was Thai, fluent in Chinese, Arabic, and English, knew basic Japanese and Spanish and, well…its hard not to feel inferior :upside_down_face: I’m a Mexican American who knows enough Spanish to “get by” and not a word more. My Mexican coworkers were always trying to teach me and inspire me, and it helped at the time, but I have no real passion for Spanish. And now I don’t work in the service industry, so I don’t feel like I need Spanish like I used to.

I love learning Japanese. I suffer from depression and I say with zero exaggeration that learning Japanese has made me the happiest I’ve been in over five years. I think it’s super rewarding, even when it feels hard.

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Excluding the writing system, Japanese language is hard. I suspect that learning a second language as an adult is hard, anyway… due to “complexity”.

I used to study Japanese for a bit, and then I pick it up again, to improve my memory… Now, I have clear the Kana and kanji, but I have to bash into the complexity of grammar…

Not simple memories anymore, but complex systematization…

And I still can’t truly read native materials…

Truly learning a language is hard, no matter what language… (Unless you have already found the right track, or… born gifted…)

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None of the things you mention are grammatical points, but rather vocabulary. Your understanding of Chinese may be ab it off. "得“ is just an adverbial marker. Verb + 得 + adverb is the construction and is pretty easy. In speech there is no difference between 的,得 or 地 which makes it even easier. “说话” is not a verb, it’s a verb and a noun. 说 is still a verb, and 话 is speech, which is a noun. You need the noun there otherwise you aren’t being clear on what the verb is acting on. In your second sentence you replaced 话 with 英语. Also with 见 it’s not that different from 到,成 etc. Or any sort of past tense marker, just in this case it can only be used with seeing or hearing. The simplicity of Chinese is that you can throw words together in virtually any order and it will still make sense to the listener. It may be less natural in some cases, but there are very few instances that sentence order makes a huge difference. Take your sentence 我和朋友一起昨天去公园了呀, which could be even more natural, but any of the following sentence orders would be understood by a native Chinese person:

昨天我和朋友一起去了公园呀 (most natural)
我昨天和朋友一起去公园了呀
昨天我和朋友一起去公园了呀
我和朋友昨天一起去了公园呀
我和朋友一起昨天去公园了呀

This is just a partial list, but all of these carry the exact same meaning, although some “sound” better than others. This type of optionality is non-existent in most other languages. Chinese grammar really is dead simple, just your understanding of it is a little bit off.

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Well, I’ve travelled in Japan before and would really like to go back, and knowing how to read signs and communicate would be a great thing, but the real reason I’m doing it is just for the challenge. If you can read Japanese, with it’s three alphabets and multiple interpretations of almost every kanji, then you know you’re Literate with a capital L.

With all the talk of Japanese being difficult (and it surely isn’t easy), I can imagine a point a few years down the road, where I am much more proficient in Japanese than I am now, where I move on to Spanish or something, so I can feel what studying an “easier” language is like again. Plus, my last name is Spanish in origin, so people sometimes wrongly guess that I might know it when they meet me.

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